These Week 13 games can radically change the latest NFL playoff projections


NFL teams have, at most, five games to close out the regular season.

Some squads are fighting for a more favorable seed in the playoffs, while others are just trying to scrape into the postseason. Except for the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers - they have already been mathematically eliminated from contention.

What's interesting about this week is the lack of games between divisional opponents, a rarity that has occurred just twice before, during Weeks 2 and 4 of the 2004 season. But that doesn't mean there's a lock of high-stakes games with big-time playoff implications.

Here are the games that can produce the biggest swing in playoff probabilities in Week 13 and how the postseason seedings currently project.

Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens

A preview of a potential wild-card round game, the Dolphins got back in the playoff race as the No. 6 seed in the AFC after they defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-24 on Sunday. Their current playoff chances sit at 38 percent, but a win against the Ravens improves that to 57 percent. A loss drops it down to 24 percent.

Standing in Miami's way is Baltimore's shutdown defense. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has seen his unit allow a league-low 1.47 points per drive while forcing a three-and-out 28 percent of the time, fifth best in the NFL. And good luck trying to complete a pass against free safety Eric Weddle. He's allowed just 70 yards over 416 snaps in coverage with two interceptions and is the No. 1 rated safety per the game charters at Pro Football Focus.

Baltimore has a lot riding on this game as well. The Ravens are currently the AFC's No. 3 seed, and could see their playoff probability improve from 46 to 56 percent with a win, but drop to 30 percent with a loss.

New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers

The Giants won't catch the Dallas Cowboys for NFC supremacy, but a win against the Steelers in Week 13 puts their playoff position on stronger footing. As of Wednesday, Big Blue has a 78 percent of securing a postseason berth, but that improves to 91 percent with a win. On the flip side, a non-division loss doesn't do much harm (71 percent chance of making playoffs).

The Steelers, meanwhile, have much more at stake. Their playoff hopes are currently better than a coin flip (60 percent), and would only improve with a win over the Giants (70 percent). A loss makes their future a lot less certain (46 percent playoff probability).

The key matchup will feature the Giants' defensive tackle Damon Harrison against Steelers' running back Le'Veon Bell.

Harrison has 38 stops at or behind the line of scrimmage this season, the most at the position, while Bell is averaging 2.8 yards per carry after contact. If Pittsburgh can win this battle in the trenches, they should punch their playoff ticket for the third straight year.

Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars

If the season ended today, the reigning Super Bowl champs would not be in the playoffs. A win gets them back in the conversation (61 percent playoff chance) while a loss all but shuts the door (30 percent).

The Broncos' game plan for this game is simple: keep pressuring Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.

Bortles has struggled this season, but when under pressure his passer rating drops from 92.2 to 52.0. That's going to play right into the hands of Denver's Von Miller, who is coming off a game in which he had three sacks, 10 total pressures, a batted pass and nine stops at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals

The Redskins are looking for the first back-to-back playoff appearances since the 1991 and 1992 seasons, and their only chance to do so is to cling to the wild-card spot. A win has them making the playoffs in two-thirds of all simulations, but a loss drops those chances in half to 33 percent.

Kirk Cousins has been on fire the last few weeks, but he won't want to test Arizona's Patrick Peterson in coverage. Peterson is allowing just a yard per snap in primary coverage and is holding opposing quarterbacks to a below-average 75.7 passer rating when he is tested. Instead, Cousins should target slot receiver Jamison Crowder against safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is allowing 1.36 yards per cover snap and a 116.3 rating against this season.

Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers

Things are looking good for the Texans. Their defense ranks third in first downs allowed per game, fifth in passing yards allowed and fourth in stopping runs on third or fourth down with two yards or less to go for a first down or touchdown (44 percent) -- all despite losing three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt to injury in September.

A win by Houston further solidifies its spot as the No. 4 seed in the AFC, allowing the Texans to host a wild-card game while a loss makes them a 50/50 shot for the playoffs.

Unfortunately, they are going to have to face a Packers team with a quarterback who is peaking at the right time.

Aaron Rodgers is coming off a statement game against the Philadelphia Eagles. He completed a season-high 76.9 percent of his passes for 313 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers against the Eagles and is now the fourth-best passer per ESPN's Total Quarterback Rating. For the Packers to have a chance at the playoffs they must win out (their current playoff odds stand at just 18 percent) and that means Rodgers playing at his best. Anything less and Green Bay misses the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

- - -

Week 13 playoff picture

If the season ended today, here is how the bracket would look. The projected odds for each team to make the playoffs are noted as well.

AFC

New England Patriots (9-2): AFC East leader, 98 percent chance at making the playoffs

Oakland Raiders (9-2): AFC West leader, 93 percent

Baltimore Ravens (6-5): AFC North leader, 47 percent

Houston Texans (6-5): AFC South leader, 61 percent

Kansas City Chiefs (8-3): Wild Card No. 1, 88 percent

Miami Dolphins (7-4): Wild Card No. 2, 38 percent

NFC

Dallas Cowboys (10-1): NFC East leader, 99 percent

Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1): NFC West leader, 99 percent

Detroit Lions (7-4): NFC North leader, 70 percent

Atlanta Falcons (7-4): NFC South leader, 85 percent

New York Giants (8-3): Wild Card No. 1, 76 percent

Washington Redskins (6-4-1): Wild Card No. 2, 62 percent


Reader Comments


Next Up in Sports

LIVE BLOG: Florida coach Jim McElwain meets the media in Atlanta
ATLANTA — Florida coach Jim McElwain will speak at 1:30 p.m. today inside the Georgia Dome in his final news conference leading into the SEC...
Coaching rumors: Lane Kiffin to interview for Houston job Sunday
Lane Kiffin will be interviewing for a new job this weekend. Hosuton will interview the Alabama offensive coordinator for its head coaching vacancy...
Chomp Chat Podcast: Like old times, Alabama-Florida in Atlanta just feels right
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Alabama and Florida will be meet in the SEC Championship on Saturday for the ninth time since 1992.
Chomp Chat Podcast: Like old times, Alabama-Florida in Atlanta just feels right
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Alabama and Florida will be meet in the SEC Championship on Saturday for the ninth time since 1992.
LOOK: Check out the SEC Championship locker rooms
The biggest SEC game of the season is just one day away, as the Alabama Crimson Tide will take on the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship Saturday...
More Stories

You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com.

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of free premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.